Let’s be honest. Parenting young children can be a black hole of playdates, tantrums, grocery store trips, dishes, laundry piles, and tripping over toys every 5 steps on your way to the kitchen to make some coffee. It can be an all consuming, sometimes insurmountable hurdle each day just to make it to nap time without yelling or crying (and we’re just talking about you here, not your child!) Even without my day job caring for 5 other toddlers besides my own for 10 hours strait, parenting my one sweet little dumpling by herself was a challenge. Throw in other stressors like living away from family, a deployed or absent spouse, or an illness or disability, you have yourself a long row to hoe.
So, let’s just jump right into it. How do you do it? How do you do it with PEACE and LOVE? With a GENTLE SPIRIT? Here are some ground rules I have figured out are just necessary for my survival through trial and error. But by all means, do what works for YOU and YOURS.
- YES Space
What is a yes space? It’s a space in your home and yard to play in where there you don’t have to say “No” all the time. Check out this article here to read more about it. Yes, it is a pain in the ass to set up, but it will definitely make up for that in units of PEACE
- Cut the Clutter
Too many toys will definitely over complicate your life. Often when kids have too many toys they will lose interest or feel overwhelmed fast. Just pick a few high quality, open-ended toys and set them up in the yes space. Also do yourself a favor and lose all the noisy neon plastic junk. It’s all annoying, overstimulating and generally positive vibe-killing.
- Check Yo’self
Are you OK? If you need to pee, need some water or are starving, chances are you will not be a pleasant person to be around. Put on your own air mask before helping others. Wake up before your kids so you can take a shower and brush your teeth!
- Meet Basic Needs
It is your job to give your kid the opportunity to eat 3 square meals and maybe a snack or two each day. (Do your American butt a favor and read French Kids Eat Everything). Let them decide what they will and won’t eat. Give them a chance to nap (Clean diaper, quiet space, dim light, maybe diffuse some lavender oil). Same for bedtime (and for Goddess sakes, put them to bed before 8PM!) Give yourself a break for an hour regardless. Make sure they’re not running into traffic or playing with knives (unless you’re Ben Hewitt). Don’t worry about getting them enrolled in BabyGymMusicStorySignTime. Just let them play!
They fell down? “Ouch that really hurt!” They start wailing for daddy? “You really miss Daddy. I miss daddy too!” They get frustrated and throw a toy? “You seem very upset right now.” Whatever they throw at you, just accept and let them know they are heard. Don’t try to fix it (although offering a hug is often appreciated). Don’t get ruffled by any of their toddler antics. Know that it is probably normal behavior, and will pass. Trust that they need to express their big feelings (have you checked out Janet Lansbury yet?) she’s kind of the best thing ever.
- Get a Rhythm!
It’s not just what you do When You Get The Blues. It’s what you almost always do. Because living with young people is like living with a mental patient. They need to know what to expect and what is expected of them. Children crave order because their own feelings can often seem chaotic to them. You don’t necessarily need a schedule, but a flexible routine. Be consistent in meal and nap times, and even indoor/outdoor times. Set the expectations of their behavior and make sure it’s actually within their capability to do. One of my limits is no throwing food. Once food throwing happens, the meal is over every time. Hunger as a result of this is called Natural Consequences. Don’t get discouraged, it often takes MANY tries to get it right. But doing this will also let your children know what to expect of YOU as well!
- Forgive Your Child, Forgive YourSelf
Nothing makes my blood boil like witnessing my own child go and hit another kid, especially a younger kid. Your kid will always do things that will “push your buttons”, and the buttons they push are most likely things from your own childhood that you struggled with or were shamed for. And often when this happens, we the All-Knowing Responsible Gentle Parent Mama Guide will lash out. We may yell or say things in a way that is disrespectful to our child. After the cool down period, just talk about it with your child. Tell him or her at their level how you were feeling, and talk about what happened. Admit you made a mistake and let them know you’re sorry and you love them. Even though you might have caused some negative emotions in your child and failed a little, modeling this amending behavior does a whole heap of good for their little souls. Children always want to forgive you!
7. Let Them Help
Though it often takes longer, let your children help you do housework. I promise the task will be completed, but it will be fun and so beneficial to your little one. Whistle while you work, let it be a game, use the time to sing and bond, watch how your child is learning. You will be amazed at how each time you let them help make their bed, they get better and better at spreading the blanket. Doing “real work” activities with your child is the best way to keep a beautiful harmony going in your home. Save the more adult type activities (sex? web browsing? Plucking your eyebrows? Basking in the Great Quiet? stuff like that.) when they are asleep.
8. Breathe Deep
When all else fails, just breathe. I know it’s a song, but seriously it works. It gets oxygen to your brain, which helps you use your prefrontal cortex (the rational, mature part of your brain). It helps you to physically calm down but also allows your attention to refocus on the moment you’re in, helping you to live in the NOW which ultimately makes you happier. I could write a book about that! (A New Earth anyone?)